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How to Choose a Spray Skirt

Kayaker sitting next to a river while wearing a dry suit and spray skirt

Welcome to Sprayskirt 101, an introductory course for all things spray skirt related. 


Choosing the proper spray skirt for your kayak may seem like a daunting task, but the IR team is here to help. Every journey has to start somewhere and choosing a spray skirt begins with determining the proper size. 

Skirt fit is one of the trickiest aspects of kayaking gear. Everyone wants a dry skirt that’s durable, easy to get on, and affordable. Unfortunately these qualities don’t always work together. 

  • Tighter usually means drier, but harder to put on.
  • Stronger materials usually have less stretch and make skirts harder to put on.
  • Materials that stretch well, are waterproof and are durable enough for kayaking are not cheap.

Combine these facts with the almost infinite variety of cockpit rims out there and you end up with a real conundrum. Furthermore, everyone has a different threshold for “dry” and “easy to put on”.

Considering all of these factors, nothing can beat actual hands-on experience with a skirt on the actual boat or boats you’re trying to fit. This is best accomplished by visiting one of our many retailers across the country who stock our skirts. You may find that where most people recommend a Large cockpit skirt you may actually prefer an XLarge. There’s nothing wrong with that – skirt sizing is very subjective. With that said, we can help get you in the ballpark. 

If you don’t see your boat in our comprehensive spray skirt fit tool, please measure your cockpit and send us the measurements. We’ll add it to our database to make things easier on the next person. Note that these measurements are taken including the rim. The circumference is the measurement around the very outer edge of the rim, not under the coaming where the bungee or rand fits.

Cockpit Size
Medium Cockpit
Large Cockpit
XLarge Cockpit
XXLarge Cockpit


Though length and width are important factors in determining the proper cockpit size, circumference is the most important measurement. Oftentimes, length and width are not enough info to establish a good fit. A skirt that is 19″ X 34″ can have a circumference anywhere from 84″ to 90″ depending on it’s shape - that’s a big difference. Length and width will get you close, but circumference is the icing on the cake. Our spray skirt sizing tool will help determine the proper cockpit size. For waist size, please use the following chart using your pants size as a reference point. 

Tunnel Size
Unisex Waist
J-Lo Skirt


Types of Spray Skirts

In the world of spray skirts, there are two standard construction methods used to make the skirt grip the cockpit rim:

  1. Bungee Style | Sew a ring of shock cord around the outer edge of the skirt.
  2. Rand Style | Glue an extruded rubber ring or “rand” around the outer edge of the skirt.

Bungee skirts are the most common and most user friendly skirts on the market. They are constructed using bungee cords made of latex strands that stretch (even in frigid weather) to form a tight and dry seal around cockpits of a variety of shapes and sizes. However, because the skirt stretches more easily, bungee skirts can implode/explode off the rim more easily. This is not an issue for most paddlers, but those who are running big water class V, running large waterfalls, or paddling boats with poorly shaped rims, a bungee skirt may not be the best choice.

Alternatively, there are rand skirts, which are made by gluing a ring of extruded rubber to the edge of the underside of the skirt. Rand skirts seal around a rim much like a Tupperware lid seal – its more of a mechanical lip-locking seal than a bungee seal. As a result, they are very resistant to implosion/explosion. In general, they are much more difficult to put on than a bungee skirt. They are an excellent choice for big water class V, large waterfalls, or boats with poorly designed cockpit rims.

Though our rands are formulated to maintain stretch in cold weather, they can be incredibly difficult to put on in cold temps. Pre-stretching or a quick dunk in the river before use can help make this process less of a pain. 

Please note that these are general guidelines – there are many exceptions to the exact rim shape and paddler's needs. Many paddlers find a personal preference to either a rand or bungee is a more significant factor than any other consideration. For more detailed information on the differences, check out this article.

If you still have questions prior to making a purchase, please reach out to our customer service team. For more information on care, use and other info, head over to our detailed Spray Skirt Knowledge page. 

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